How Madison Made an Impact on Failing Food Systems During COVID-19
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic the City leaders and staff recognized that we’d need to position ourselves as a monetary and administrative support for the multi-faceted work being done in Madison’s food system by community-based organizations and local leaders.
In March 2020, we immediately pivoted and adapted $50,000 of SEED Grants funding to address community food needs affected by COVID-19 placing a priority on funding proposals that provided fresh, healthy food to residents in need in a safe way. Through those grants, the City invested in organizations that were donating, procuring, and delivering meals, groceries and basic staples to high need households. We also supported the purchase of hard-to-find Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) materials like face masks and hand sanitizer to protect organizational staff and their clients.
Additionally, in 2020 we repurposed $15,000 of summer meals funding to REAP Food Group ultimately supporting the “Farms to Families Initiative” collaboration between REAP and Raices para el Cambio (Roots4Change) Cooperative. This program purchases fresh, healthy, locally grown food from regional family farms and small businesses, and delivers it to Madison-area Latino/Indigenous residents and families’ hard-hit by job loss, food insecurity, lack of access to social services, and federal anti-immigration provisions.
We have also increased our annual contribution to support the programmatic management of the City of Madison-Dane County Double Dollars Programs by 50% totaling $37,500. The Double Dollars Program doubles SNAP-EBT shoppers food purchasing power at participating farmers markets and all three Willy Street Co-op grocery locations, turning $20 into $40 worth of groceries for families across our community.
In November and December of 2020, the Madison Food Policy Council created the “Healthy Community Food Systems Fund”, which provided $250,000 to support community feeding programs and organizational food access grants within the City of Madison. This was done through a couple of programs.
Through the “Rapid Food Access – Food Entrepreneur Support”, we provided $100,000 to support community feeding programs being offered by Cook it Forward and FEED to Go. Those programs – combined – have distributed more than 10,000 free, high-quality, prepared meals to community residents in need and have provided steady income to over 11 area restaurants and catering businesses through the first quarter of 2021.
Through the “Community Food Access Grants Program”, we provided $150,000 to support 12 community-based organizations which have a diverse compilation of projects. These projects included food pantry expansions at neighborhood and community centers, supporting stipends for youth workers in the culinary arts, providing meals during COVID-19, and expanding gleaning operations that provide additional food to the emergency food system from area businesses and pantry/community gardens.We recognize that all of these programs and the resources being allocated from them to the community are helpful to Madison residents struggling with access to food, especially by providing healthy, nutritious food. We also know that the need surpasses the monetary and administrative support we’ve been able provide. The City of Madison is committed to supporting our local amazing organizations combating food insecurity. We know the need is great, and we stand committed to assisting and bettering the lives of our residents.